3 Ways to STAND OUT and Win the Grant! with Margit Brazda Poirier
In this 1-hour webinar (with 15 minutes Q&A), Margit Brazda Poirier, Owner of Grants4Good, will share with you the three ways to stand out and win the grant.
By the end of this Instrumentl Partner Webinar, you’ll be able to learn:
- The #1 strategy EVERY nonprofit MUST use in order to get funding.
- How your nonprofit can stand out from the competition so they are eager to fund you!
- A CRITICAL step overlooked by most nonprofits when writing grant proposals.
- Understand how Instrumentl saves you time and money in identifying the right opportunities for your programs.
By using that link, you'll save $50 off your first month should you decide to upgrade when your trial expires.
Margit Brazda Poirier founded Grants4Good LLC in 2009 and has since helped thousands of nonprofits achieve their grant seeking goals. She has over 25 years of nonprofit management and grants experience, a GPC, and is a GPA Approved Trainer, having written and received over $30 million in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants.
Instrumentl Partner Webinars are collaborations between Instrumentl and its community partners to provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem grant professionals often have to solve, while also sharing different ways Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Click here to save a seat in our next workshop.
Click the video link below to start watching the replay of this free grant workshop, or check out the transcriptions below the video.
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3 Ways to STAND OUT and Win the Grant! - Grant Training Transcription
Will: Hello everyone. And welcome to Three Ways to Stand Out and Win the Grant with Margit Brazda Poirier. This workshop is being recorded and slides will be shared afterwards. So, keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up email later today if you want to review anything that we go over. In case this is your first time here, this free grant workshop is an Instrumentl partner webinar. These collaborations between Instrumentl and community partners provide free educational workshops for grant professionals. Our goal is to tackle a problem that grant professionals often have to solve while sharing different ways that Instrumentl’s platform can help grant writers win more grants. Instrumentl is the institutional fundraising platform. If you want to bring grant prospecting, tracking, and management to one place, we can help you do that. You can set up your own personalized grant recommendations using the link on the screen here. That's instrumentl.com/grantsforgood.
Lastly, be sure to stick around for the entire presentation today. We have some prizes that we'll be giving away and we'll share more details about that at the conclusion of today's workshop. We ask that if you have any questions along the way that you use three hashtags in front of your question to have that question be recognized. And then I will confirm when I have logged your question for the Q and A section at the end. Now with that housekeeping out of the way, I'm very excited to introduce Margit Brazda Poirier. Margit was actually our second presenter when we started this series, and by popular demand we brought her back as well. She founded Grants For Good LLC in 2009 and has since helped thousands of nonprofits achieve their grant receiver goals. She has over 25 years of nonprofit management and grants experience. She's a GPC and a GPA approved trainer, having written and received over $30 million in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants. Margit, feel free to take it away from here.
Margit: Hi, thank you Will, thanks for that. Wonderful. Thank you for that introduction Will, I really appreciate that. And just give me a thumbs up if you can hear me. I am fully un-muted. Is that right? Will, can you hear me, okay? Okay. All right. That's what I want to know. Great, welcome everybody. I have been reading the chat. If you see me smiling, you're in the picture. I just love knowing that we're all here together, even though we are virtual. It's so exciting to see all the different organizations that you represent and all the different locations that you're joining us from today. And I have to applaud your bravery in writing the percentage of grants that you have received approximately so far because not everybody wants to share that. It's okay if you don't, but I really like seeing this and I've seen anywhere from 0% to 80%. I know that Heidi at the women's shelter has gotten three for three. Yay, good Heidi. Way to go, keep it up. And I know a lot of people just starting out. They have zero because they haven't really even started the whole grant funding journey.
So I really welcome you all here. And I'm going to hope that by the end of today, that 0%, 30%, 50% or 80% is going to go up by several percentage points. All right. So let's get started. As Will said, if you want, click on this link to start your 14 day trial of Instrumentl. Great. Do it. If you just want $50 off, you can use that link that I've put in the chat box, Grants for Good 50. So the name of our webinar today is Three Ways to Stand Out and Win the Grant. And the reason I developed this webinar is that I used to work as the director of a private family foundation, and we would receive hundreds of grant applications every year. And some of the bigger foundations and the federal grants, they get thousands and thousands of grant applications each year. They have to make tough decisions among all those thousands that are out there. Again, my name is Margit Brazda Poirier. I'm a certified grant professional and approved trainer. So, let's jump right in. You've already shared in the zoom chat your first name or organization and about what percentage of grants you get. If you haven't, please keep doing it. We'd love to hear from you.
Today's outcomes. At the end of today's webinar, you're going to leave with the number one strategy that every nonprofit must use in order to get grant funding. So if you're new to this, great, if you're already a veteran grant writer, I'm hoping you'll pick up some new tips today. We're also going to be talking about how your nonprofit can stand out among those thousands of applications that funders receive each year. And we're going to talk about a very critical step that so many organizations seem to miss, and it will make all the difference in your grant funding success. And lastly, stick with us to the end because we have some bonuses and giveaways that I don't want you to miss out on. They're extremely relevant to what we're talking about today. So grab your lunch, coffee or whatever and sit tight. So the very first thing I want to talk about right now is how competitive are grants really. And I'm gonna take a quick pause. I saw something in the chat. Will, it looks like some people might be having trouble hearing me with audio. So I'm going to let you jump in and handle that. I want to make sure everybody's able to listen.
Will: Yeah, Margit I think the connection’s actually on your end, because I was experiencing that shortly with your connection as well. So I think it has stabilized in the last minute or so, but it was coming in and out in terms of the overall connection from your end there.
Margit: All right. Let's see if I can, give me one quick second. Okay. we're going to keep going then. I know we're recording. So if there is any in and out of internet, my apologies. So how competitive are grants? Well, let's talk about this and maybe you've been in this picture where people have their heads down and they're dismayed that they didn't receive the grant award that they worked so hard to apply to. And the answer to this question is that it varies. I have found that sometimes around one in 10 of the grants that are received by a foundation get funded. Now other times, and for the foundation I worked for, we were able some years to fund about 30% of all the applications that came in. So this was a private family foundation open to accepting RFPs, accepting proposals openly, and funded about 30%. There are some foundations that might fund up to 50% of all grant proposals, but more often than not, the percentages are really quite low.
I've written a lot of federal grants where 1% of all the applications will get funded. To give you an example, if any of you write to the National Science Foundation, NSF, they are pretty clear that out of a hundred points, you have to score 98 or above. So now we're talking at the top one or two, maybe three percentile of grants actually get funded by NSF. So it's so important to know at least these three things I'm going to share with you. And there's much, much more to know, but I at least want to give you something to work with to increase your percentage of funding. And again, it really varies whether it's foundation, state, or federal grants. And some foundation grants fund high percentages but others, especially the really big federal grants like the gates foundation, It's going to be a lower percentage that is funded.
All right, types of funding sources. This is really a quick review. So I'm going to breeze through these, but we have government grants as a type of funding source. These include federal grants like education, Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts. There are state grants. I'm coming to you from New York state right now, but every state has grants you can apply to directly. And there are also regional and local government grants such as through your city or county. We also have a bunch of other sources, including community foundations. And I didn't share the link in these slides, but if you Google community foundation locator, you will find a map of the US. Click on it and you can narrow it right down to your community because many of these community foundations have funding to disburse to you. Private foundations. This is a big one. There are close to a hundred thousand private foundations in the US alone and I think about 4,000 or 5,000 in Canada give out grants to nonprofit organizations. These include the big ones that you've heard about like the Gates Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, but they also include a lot of smaller family foundations that might be in your region or just in your community.
And finally, corporate foundations. These include the Ford Foundation, Dollar General. Don't forget these because many of them think about the banks in your region. They almost all have a charitable giving arm that you can then access. And the reason I say this is, here we are in partnership with Instrumentl and this is how I find these foundations. We'll talk a little bit more about that, but this is how to access and where to find government and private foundations. So the other thing I like to do is when we talk about your so-called success rate or what percentage of grants have been funded, the reason I ask this is because, A, it's a tough question to ask, but B it's one you're going to be asked if you haven't already by your supervisor, your CEO and/or your board of directors. They're going to want to know how well we are doing with getting grants. So one way to share information with them is by generating a report. And if you are using Instrumentl, and of course I do, I provide these reports to my clients at Grants for Good. We work with multiple clients throughout the country. And my clients often say, Margit, could you get us a report for how we've been doing in the last month, the last quarter, and/or the last year with obtaining grants.
So I will generate a report. And this is a screenshot right from Instrumentl where I can give people an update about whether or not, or I can tell them which grants have been researched, which ones we're planning to apply to, which ones we've submitted, which ones we've received and how much money was received. So this is a great tool and a nice visual to share with your board or your staff about your grant seeking successes, something to keep in mind there. Now let's jump right into what is the number one thing every nonprofit must do to get grant funding. So the number one thing is a little formula I developed. And for those of you who know me, and I see some familiar faces here on this webinar, you know that I've been a math geek all my life and that I love to do budgets. In fact, I should teach a webinar on budgets, but this is a very simple equation. And it's one that's been effective. It has helped me over the last, gosh, almost 30 years that I've been in this business. It's quite simple. It means that if you and your staff, your team, do really smart project planning and you match your project with the specific interest of the funder, your chances of grant success go up tremendously.
Now you're going to say, well, no kidding, Margit. This is common sense. But let me get a little bit deeper into each of these because there are some nuances here that really do make a difference. All right. So keep this in mind. First of all, project planning. What does it really mean in the grant world? In the grant world, what it means is this, you need to identify a very specific problem or need that is happening right in your community and what you're doing about it. So I saw some really fascinating projects come up in the chat group, including Sue from Rochester who works with Autism Up. I love that organization. I know someone from Orlando who is working with an LGBTQ community. Great. Melissa is working on Tasha's furry Friends Sanctuary. We've got such a mix of people here and each one of the organizations you represent exists solely because there is a problem or need in your community that you and only you are addressing in a very unique way. Now you may say no, there are other people addressing this problem. Great. But let's talk about what makes your approach unique. That's going to be so important in your grant planning in your grant application.
So in your project planning, you identify that need and you decide which of your programs need funding. Now, some of my clients might be smaller. For example, one is a veterans organization that specifically serves veterans coming back that have been disabled from injuries and they want to get back into outdoor sports. Very specific focus. But I have other clients that might have five or six programs all running at once. They all need funding and you have to start to whittle down or prioritize. Rather, which ones do you want to write grant proposals first? And for which funders? More about that in a moment as it relates to Instrumentl. Also, maybe you're creating a new program or you just need to fund something that you're already doing. There's this big misconception that I have to create a new program. Every time you want grant funding and you don't, you can fund your existing staff. You can fund your overhead expenses, your rent, your insurance, you name it. You can do all of that with grant funding. As long as you do your research very carefully, your funders will support those dollars.
Also, you have to identify who your target audience is, and I'm sure you already know it because you are in this work every single day. You know that your target audience is maybe for a specific program. It might be youth ages 14 to 19 with autism, or it might be young adults that are just coming out as LGBTQ and need a support system, or it could be a target audience of the animals that you're serving throughout your shelter. I saw someone from Special Olympics Montana here, Susan. So you know who your target audience is. And I would invite everybody if you haven't done it already, that after this webinar, grab a piece of paper and write down everything you know about your target audience. And I mean everything, their age, their demographic, where they live, what interests they have. And the reason this is important is when you start using Instrumentl, and I do this for every single one of my clients and projects, I want to narrow down my target audience as best as possible so that I can really focus my funding search on the funders that are interested in my target audience.
So that's a really important tip to do. The other reason project planning is so important is have you ever tried to tell somebody that doesn't know anything about nonprofits or grants what it is you do and their eyes glaze over, right? You say, well, we write grants or we do fundraising for such and such organization. What they don't realize is it's so much more complex than filling out a form. You have to make a strong case for why you need funding, what you'll do and what the ultimate impact is. So good project planning leads to really great grant proposals. Now here's a tool you can use to help develop your grant proposal and do your planning at the same time, it's called the logic model. Logic models are something that I also teach very specifically both through webinars and also in my all about grant writing online course which you're going to hear more about at the end of this webinar. So if you want to know a lot about logic models just jump onto my blog. I have an article there about making friends with Logic Models because many people do not like them, and I will also teach about it. But again, a grant proposal is really an extremely well planned project.
When I was director of a foundation, I had to review hundreds and hundreds of grant proposals on a quarterly basis. Some of the applications I read always had a great need. The need statement was phenomenal. What was difficult was figuring out what they were going to do, how and what the outcomes were. So don't let this happen to you. If you use a logic model or anything like a similar logic chart, start with the outcomes. And I'm going to talk a little bit more about how to develop those today. And then you have to hone in on what are your activities, your inputs, and an evaluation. How will you know that you have made a difference? What do you measure to show that your animal shelter is rehoming animals and saving animals lives? What will you show that you've made a difference in young people with special needs getting involved in the Special Olympics? So you can check out that link. Quick poll. I'm curious, who has used a logic model for planning purposes? Who has used this type of tool? And it's simply their yes or no. I'm not really sure how to do this. All right. And Will, I'm wondering how we are going to see the results of our poll? Will these be showing up for everyone to see?
Will: Yep. I'm going to wait 10 more seconds or so. We've got 70% of votes in, so I'm going to wait until we get to about 75% and then I'll share the results with you.
Margit: Okay. Excellent. So this is interesting. We've got a real mix here. We've got about 38% that have used logic models solely for planning purposes, 40% that haven't. Although I realize some of you may have done logic models simply because you had to for grant application. And about 22% say I'm not quite sure how to do this. So we're not going to have a chance to really dive into how to create logic models. But I did want to share that link with you to my blog post that'll help you get started. And let me just show you examples of what some of them are. They vary in terms of how they look, but they almost always have one thing in common. It's a logical progression and visual progression that shows what kind of inputs you need. In other words, your staff, your office space, rooms, internet connection, what inputs you need to conduct various specific activities that lead to short and long-term outcomes. More on that in a moment.
Here's another logic model. This one is from the Federal Department of Justice. And this one is similar, but with much nicer colors, and it talks about the problem in your community or the need that you are addressing. It asks you for activities, output measures, which are simply things like the number of people served, number of workshops conducted, and outcome measures which are those really big, important impacts that answer the question, how has your community changed? How have the people you work with been affected or animals or environment, depending on what field of work you're in? So just to sum up, the very first of the three things you need to do to stand out and win the grant is you really do need to have and spend the time on project planning upfront because only then can you really find the best funders that match your work. And even though this may seem intuitive, I often see it done in the entire reverse order. A nonprofit may see a foundation or a government opportunity that looks great. And they say, we've got to go after this.
Now let's plan out our program better. Sometimes you can get away with that. It can work. I've seen it happen. But on the whole, if you want to be proactive, if you want to increase your percentage of getting grants, definitely go the route of smart project planning. Then match with funder interest using Instrumentl or any other search tools to increase your rate. And remember one quick thing, government grants are enormous right now. There are so much out there through the American Rescue Plan. If you don't know about the American Rescue Plan, I encourage you to go back to an Instrumentl partner webinar that was run just a couple of weeks ago by Julie Astle. It was fantastic. It will tell you all about the opportunities out there. But I want to tell you about foundations too, that they are required to give out a minimum of 5% of their annual assets. So quick sidebar here, the 5% rule is developed by the IRS that says foundations have to give out 5% of their average annual assets from the prior year.
Now, what that means is that if you follow the stock market in 2020, it did phenomenally well. It far exceeded my expectations. Given the fact that we're in the middle of a dreadful economic slowdown in a pandemic, the stocks did well. In 2021, the stocks are still doing well. What this means is that foundations that have invested their portfolio in stocks, which most do significantly. They are making a lot of money and because they are, they have to give out a lot of money. So if anyone ever says, there's no money out there, it is simply untrue. There's a lot. And here's how to play detective and find out how much money foundations have to get out. Here's a quick screenshot from Instrumentl. This is the Kong Toy grant and their total assets last year were over $2 million, 2,297,255. How to figure out how much they give out is easy, just multiply this by 0.05, which is 5%. And they have to give out a minimum of 114,000 and some change. Now you can go to the bigger foundations, and you'll see that they have to give out millions and millions of dollars. So my thought is, let's make their job easier and make sure that you're one of those organizations that receives that money. So that 5% rule is a really, really important point.
All right, I'm going to move on because we've got a lot to cover still. So number two, how can you stand out from the thousands of grant applications? Let's talk about number two. Number two, a lot of people miss this one, contact funders before you apply again. Some of you might be saying, well, yeah, we do that Margaret. We email them. We do our best. Sometimes they just don't respond. I understand. I totally understand. I'd like to just take a quick poll before we go on. I'm curious how you contact funders and there may be multiple ways that you do it, but please check this poll as many that apply. How do you currently get in touch with funders? Again, whether it's before or after you apply, how do you do it? It could be a letter of introduction. A lot of times these are online. Sometimes LOIs, as they're known, are required before you can even submit a full application. Or maybe you use a phone call, you know, the old fashioned phone calls, maybe you email funders, maybe you are introduced to somebody on a foundation board through a colleague or a board member.
And more often than not, I'm starting to see people use social media more to be in touch with funders. So, I'm curious to see what our results will be once everyone has had a chance. All right, what I'm seeing here is that the two most common ways to contact funders are the letter of inquiry and an email. So 72% use a letter of inquiry. 80% are using email. Only 42% are using phone calls, also a little bit surprisingly, 42%. About 38% are meeting their funders through an introduction from a colleague or a board member and about 8% using social media. So, that is still something that's emerging. So there are definitely some opportunities there that aren't being utilized yet. So let me jump into this a little bit more and share some information with you. One of the steps really overlooked is contacting funders. And people often say, yeah, but why would I contact them and how? So, first of all, the why. Again, go to my Grants for Good.com website. I have a blog there that's written about the three Cs. You'll see in a moment what that's about, but it talks more specifically about how to contact funders and what to talk about with them.
Now, first and foremost, you can contact a funder before they even have an RFP out or before you're even applying to them just to do a quick hello introduction, tell them how you're doing, tell them what you're doing and why you're doing it. And it's so important because keep in mind, these folks are getting hundreds or thousands of grant applications a year, and in order to stand out, even if you never reach a funder by phone, pick up the phone and call and leave a voicemail whenever it's possible. It can be a one minute voicemail to introduce yourself, to say that your mission aligns with that of the funder. And you're really excited to send a grant application in about X, Y, Z project. Okay? Then they've at least got your voice. They've at least heard you and your passion for what you're doing, whether they call you back or not, it is just worth doing it. Now, if they do call back, just be prepared to, again, talk about how you're doing, what you're doing and why it matters so much, especially now during a pandemic that seems to be going on for a very long time.
Especially now when you know, racial injustice is at the forefront, maybe you're addressing some aspect of that. One way to find the contact information for funders, and it's not always easy because I realize that sometimes you're applying to an online foundation and there simply is no person to contact. There's no phone number. There is no email. There's just an online form. That's okay. [inaudible] apply. Anyway, a lot of times it requires digging and again, investigative work. Here's a screenshot from Instrumentl that will show you how to find a funder. And this is one of the most useful things that me and my clients use. Well, there are many useful things, but this one is fantastic because they'll give you the names of all the board members on a foundation and having the name of a board member of a foundation is critical. You need to have those board member names because only then can you know who to speak to or who to address your email to, instead of just addressing it to dear sir, or madame or to whom it may concern. Sometimes you'll have a phone number that you can call which is wonderful. Definitely pick up the phone. You might have a website where you can get on and get information about who to contact but this is really the place to go to find out.
Now the other way to get more information, both on Instrumentl and just in a general Google search, is to make sure you find a foundation's IRS 990. The 990 form will always have contact information on it. A couple other quick tips. And I include these in some of my blog articles. And I offer these very quick tips for you now because we're kind of on a very fast webinar track here. But these are ones I developed because as a foundation director, I would find that sometimes I would pick up the phone when someone was calling and they were surprised to hear me pick up the phone. They said, oh, I didn't expect to reach anybody at this foundation. So be prepared with your numbers, know your organization's annual budget, know your project budget, know how much money you're going to be requesting from a funder and how that fits into the overall scheme, because you might just reach someone the very first minute you try to call them. And of course, before you ever contact them, make sure you research them carefully. Use Instrumentl or a search tool that helps you research them and check out their website, if they have one. And find out who else they have funded and for how much, and this is also something that is really helpful using Instrumentl.
So I want to make sure there's time for questions. I'm going to run ahead and go to the third, most critical step that is overlooked by most nonprofits when writing grant proposals. And that is as you're researching funders, as you're doing your project planning, because remember those are two key things you have to do. Always keep one thing in mind, and that is what funders are really buying. And I can tell you when I first started working for the Wilson foundation—they're the family that were the key founders in Xerox corporation—when I first started working for them, I wanted to get to know their board members. And so I interviewed each board member personally. And one of the questions I asked is why are you involved in the foundation? It's not required, so why are you involved? And the number one thing I heard back was that they wanted to make a difference in their community, in their country and their world, but that they wanted to make a difference. They wanted to improve the community. So, what they wanted to do was really to see an impact from their dollars, a positive impact.
And so when I think about what funders are really buying when they fund your program, your project, your organization, they are buying impact. They want to know what has resulted. In other words, what are the outcomes? So this is going right back to logic models. And when you use a logic model, please always start with your outcomes first, because only then will you be able to make that big, long list of all the activities you need to do to get to those outcomes. Only then will you be able to know your evaluation metrics which show that you've achieved your outcomes. So showing your impact is really all about telling what needs to change and how, and what you will do to make that change. Who is your target audience? Right? This is going back to the first 10 minutes of this presentation and what are the outcomes? So again, homework, write down your target audience in explicit detail. All right, it's going to help you do your funding search on Instrumentl. Now, the second bit of homework here is your outcomes.
I want to give you some examples of outcomes. And then I'm going to give you a quick exercise to work with not so much during this webinar, but for after, because you aren't going to be receiving the slides. You are going to be receiving slides and the recording from this. So one definition of outcomes is really the benefits or changes that result from your project. So it could be the effects on knowledge, attitudes, skills, behavior, condition, or status that happened during or after the project that is a direct result of your organization's work. So here are some examples. This one comes from one of my clients that runs a mentoring service for youth to try to keep them in school and not have them drop out. So here's an outcome in broader terms. Youth in the mentoring program will gain exposure to opportunities in the workforce that may affect their future career trajectory. Here's another one. Youth that participate in the mentoring program will stay in school with improved grades and a greater likelihood of graduation.
Now, those are the broader outcomes. If we had more time, I could dial in more into the objectives and talk about smart objectives. But for that check out Beth Browning's webinar. It happened earlier this year. She does a fantastic job of talking about how to develop smart objectives. I love these Instrumentl partner webinars because so many of my peers that I have known over the decades are running some pretty amazing webinars here. So check out Beth Browning's on that one. But meanwhile, here's a quick tip for developing your own outcome. And this is really phenomenal for people who are new to grant writing. It may also help tune in some of you who have been doing this for years but just want to really make a stronger case for support. So to develop outcomes in the most simple terms, look at your current situation. Do you see that before column where you talked about what the problem or need is, or what your current situation that needs fixing is? Picture the dire circumstance in your community, and then picture afterwards what would happen if you received all the money that you needed to do the work with hundreds of thousands, millions.
You've just received all the money you need from grants you've completed in 12 months and you've completed the things you needed to do. What has changed for your target audience, what will be different? So you've already identified your target audience. Now say what has changed for your target audience. And I'm going to give you one of my best tips for developing outcomes. I've been doing this for decades. And it probably took me the last 10 years to do this, but I start my outcomes with the target audience. In other words, my outcome doesn't say, I'm just gonna use autism up here, we'll help a 1000 kids with autism fill in the blanks XYZ. It doesn't start that way. My outcomes would always start with youth ages 12 to 18 on the autism spectrum and will then have what changes for them, fill in that blank, which you get the picture. I always start with my target audience first. Why? Because that is what the funders are interested in. Yes, they're interested in your organization. Absolutely. But only to the extent that you are doing something that is affecting your target audience, that makes your community a better place.
So that's one of my quick tips for outcomes. Start with your target audience first. Now at the end of this presentation, you are going to have my email and some ways to contact me. So if there are some questions we don't get to today and we're going to try to get to all of them, if there are some we don't get to, and I realize I've covered a lot, please email me, contact me. So I'm going to have three learning takeaways for you. Also Will is going to talk a little bit about Instrumentl and then there are some giveaways and I've also got a free guide that you can download. So three learning takeaways today. If I had to encapsulate all of this information to three points, first and foremost, start project planning before you search for funders. And I realize it's not always possible. Sometimes there's a deadline. it's next week and you've got to go backwards and just rework your project. That's okay. But to be proactive and really successful in the long-term, definitely do this first. Secondly, whenever possible, contact funders before you apply.
You know now how to find contact information for funders using Instrumentl, using 990s, and that there are multiple ways you can contact, whether through email, phone, LOI, social media. Get on their Facebook page or their LinkedIn page. If the funder has such a page and more and more often they do, just start getting active. Find out who their success stories are, who they are funding. Make sure you know some of their posts or ask questions, offer encouragement, get involved with them through social media. It's a very powerful tool. It will help. And lastly, you can use Instrumentl to find the funders and also to keep track of it all because I know one person said they've applied for three grants, Heidi from the women's shelter, you've gotten three for three. And with that kind of record, you're going to want to keep going, right? And so you're going to want to find more funders that are really specific for the work that you're doing. And you're going to need to keep track of all that. So you can use Instrumentl to do that as well. I want to hand it over to Will for a few minutes to talk a little bit more about the Instrumentl platform, and then we want to really get into your questions.
Will: Awesome. Thanks so much, Margit. So at a high level, for people that are new to us, Instrumentl helps you bring grant prospecting, tracking and management into one place. Essentially, a question was asked earlier about what makes us different than a foundation directory online. And essentially we cover the full grant life cycle. So you can not only complete your prospecting with us, but you can also track and manage your grants in the same place. So traditionally, a lot of people have used a collection of tools like maybe a grant hub to separately do management, whereas at Instrumentl, all of that gets brought into the same place. And there's also a lot of other distinct differences that just make your life easier as a grant writer. So what we find is that we're able to increase grant applications by 70% with the nonprofits that work with us, just because we saved them hours of time every single week. And so what you'll do when you click into that link in the chat, instrumentl.com/grantsforgood, you'll be able to create a 14 day free account in which you can set up a project.
That's very similar to what I've done here for this homeless shelter nonprofit in which we're able to set up a search that is only looking for active grant opportunities related to my fields of work. And so this really allows you to zero in on things because like Margit was talking about earlier in today's presentation, it's all about finding good fit funders. And having to sift through long form Google search results and things like that is not a productive use of your time. And so that's where Instrumentl really helps you out. You set up your project parameters. You tell us what sort of grants you're looking for in terms of size, as well as what the funds might be used for. And then we'll output for you all of the different grant results that match this particular project. So these 231 results are specific grant opportunities that your nonprofit can start working on today. So theoretically in the next hour or so, when you use Margit's link, what you'll be able to do is you'll be able to have a similar set of matches that are specific to your nonprofits needs.
And then furthermore, when this is updated every single week, you're going to get an email notification like Margit gets every single week that says, hey, here are all the new grant opportunities that are available for your homeless shelter project. So we are always looking for the next funding opportunity for you. And that's why people love us. In terms of the actual results themselves, what you'll notice is that we also summarize a lot of key data insights about the 990 reports that you are doing your own due diligence on. And that's something that I really wanted to highlight today specifically, is that we've actually started to release a new Standard Plan that is going to provide deeper insights into some of the common things that we know that you guys want to learn about. So we obviously went over earlier in today's presentation the section on key people and how we can find key contact information of individuals this way. But something new as well is we have things like giving average and median of different funders that you can look through. You can also see the breakdown as to the grant amounts over a series of years.
And so you can narrow it down by a particular year, but you can also look at it from over a multi-year time horizon. And then we've also released a number of updates in terms of some of the features in our map feature, which will show you whether or not a grantee is someone that's new to the foundation or if they are returning grantee. And then you'll also see this new section around the openness to new grants. So this can be a great way for you to figure out, oh, is this foundation actually open to us applying to them? Which is going to save you time because if you notice, for example, that this foundation only 23% or so of their new grants, every single year, are going to new grantees, then maybe you want to prioritize the one that's giving 50% of their grants every year to new grantees. So these are the sorts of data trends that you will now be able to check out on Instrumentl. And again, you can use Margit's link, it's instrumentl.com/grantsforgood, to dig into these sorts of insights. And it'll give you a deeper dive into this. I know that we have some customers in the audience as well.
We are going to be making a bigger full-on announcement of all of these new features in the coming weeks. And every one of our existing customers will also be able to try these features out for themselves. And so stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled for next steps there on that side of things. And then when it comes to that tracking side of things, in terms of the actual second side of Instrumentl, you'll be able to track things in what we call the master tracker. And essentially each of your projects is going to have something like this in which I have an environmental project here, and I've saved all the grants I'm working on in the same place. And then once a week, what Instrumentl is going to do is it's going to give me an email that says, hey, we see all the grants you're working on, here are the deadlines, here's what's changed since last week. And here are the upcoming tasks that you have. So, if you're having to use a Google calendar and Asana, or Trello or another platform just to do everything related to your grants across your team, you can bring all of your collaborations into Instrumentl as well.
So when you save an opportunity into Instrumentl, all of this stuff, in terms of the task management on the right-hand side, is available to you in which you can take care of some of the things that Margit shared earlier in her presentation, where maybe you can run through a logic model or something like that. And then from there, you might set a deadline for this Friday, and you might notify John on your team. And so these are the sorts of things you can take care of when you bring in your workflow into Instrumentl, and you can always upload your own existing old school spreadsheet into Instrumentl by just clicking this upload many button, and then we'll be able to import any tracker you're currently using into our system as well. And then when it comes to the grant writers and the audience that might be servicing multiple clients, you can also generate reports really quickly in Instrumentl like Margit mentioned. So if I wanted to pull a report and go by a certain number of years or also go by certain statuses, I can quickly download a PDF or a CSV report that is related to my tracker. And so what might've taken you an hour or so to create in the past, it's something that you can create in literal seconds and whatnot.
And I know that this is just really helpful because that's something in which, when it comes to a board meeting maybe once a month where you want to summarize all of your wins and losses or when it comes to grants and whatnot, it can just be a faster way to get that sort of output to the members of your board. Or if it even comes to earlier today, we had the question about asking board members for introductions to new foundations that you're thinking about prospecting and exploring. Well, what you could do is you could literally create a report of just the opportunities that you're prospecting and send that over to your board and then get them to reply back directly onto that as well. And so if you want to sign up for your Instrumentl account, I'm going to post Margit's link in the chat again. Once more, we've got 14 days to try it out, and you'll also get a dedicated, personal walkthrough with a member of our team to answer any of your questions and to get you set up and things like that. There also were a few questions in terms of our past workshops and how to match grant applications and funder interest. That's actually a new blog post that we also just released this week and our blog is continuing to add free content, including replays to Margit's past workshop, if you want to check that out.
You may find that useful in case you've never explored that side of things. And then in terms of answering just a few of the quick questions that came in before I pass it back to Margit, Instrumentl doesn't focus on Canada, but we do have some Canadian opportunities. So you're always welcome to create an account and see what's available for you. But we do have a focus on 501 C3 in the United States with an operating budget of at least 90 K or so. In terms of the cost of the platform, it starts at 149 a month on the annual, otherwise it's 162 a month on the monthly, and you can save $50 by either using Margit’s link that I just posted or by using the Grants for Good 50 code. That will be shared again at the end of the presentation as well. In terms of one organization sharing the same subscription, absolutely you can do that. Each basic plan will cover up to three users. And then in terms of how we source our grants, we literally do all this work manually, we have a content team that pretty much digs through what you guys used to dig through.
And then we set up trackers on each of these foundation websites for changes on the page, which allows us to update you when there are changes to deadlines and things like that. And then in terms of the actual matching itself, yes, it is through a matching algorithm in which we are the only tool that will provide you with smart matches of active grant opportunities and only that. In terms of the current information that Instrumentl has, we pull the 990 report that is the latest on file with the IRS. And so that will largely depend on the individual foundation and whatnot. And so that should answer all the key questions. I'm going to pass it back to you, Margit.
Margit: All right, sounds good. Thank you Will, let's get back to our slides here. All right. Next steps. So I'm hoping you can see the next step slide here. So many of you, when you got on, had a success rate of receiving anywhere from zero to 80% of the grants you wanted. And I've developed a course for people who really want to up their skills. And it's also appropriate for people who are very new to grant writing, although I've had some people purchase the course, get through it and say, oh my gosh, this has made a big difference in terms of increasing the numbers of grants I can finally get. If you're new to grant writing, this course is called All About Grant Writing. It is self paced online, and I developed it just last year and I'm always updating it. So once you register for this course, you can start it tomorrow, you can start it next month, or next year. It doesn't expire, but you will always get my updates. So join the course if you want to raise at least a hundred thousand or more because so far, my clients have come back with raising about $200,000 or more as a direct result of taking the course.
So this is very much a baseline of where you can get started. It'll also help you save a lot of time. I talk about finding the best grants for your nonprofit. There's a seven day plan that walks you through each part of a typical grant proposal and how to write it. So a lot of times people say we just don't have the time and staff to do this. And so rather than sitting through an online course at a university or some of the courses that just simply teach you things, this course actually is like me sitting down next to you, writing with you. So the course is literally a step-by-step system that when you follow it, your grant proposal is done at the end. And that's how I designed it. People are just too busy to consistently learn things without applying them immediately. So just because you're here on today's webinar with Instrumentl, I do have a coupon code it's grants—G R A N T S—100. It expires on Monday, September 13th. So please sign up for the course before September 13th. And when you do, I will be scheduling a live Q and A with me so that you will have continuous live support. We also have a community with the course.
We have our own private Facebook group when you do purchase the course. So we have all of that plus a whole bunch of templates on how to complete federal, state and foundation grant applications and budgets. So how to get a hold of me after this webinar, my email is right here, [email protected] There's my phone number, website, and I'm on LinkedIn. Lastly, if you click that bottom right here, you can download your free guide called Seven Steps to Grant Success. This is extremely helpful for people who are starting out and really want to increase their grant success rate. So download your free guide anytime you like. And finally, we are going to be raffling off two winners, and to be eligible for the grand prize, which is 50% off my course or a one month subscription to Instrumentl, you just need to click here and complete an evaluation of today's webinar. And there are a bunch of actions you can do, but you do need to do them by tomorrow because on Friday we're going to be drawing the winner for both of these prizes. And Will will be announcing the winner through email this Friday. So only a couple of days away.
Will: That's right. And you can also click directly in the chat for that second link on entering the raffle, and then you'll be able to access that from there. So that should work for you. Here's the link again. And then the other thing is in case you enjoyed this grant workshop. I know some folks were asking about what to do if I've contacted the funder twice and they haven't gotten back to me, what's next? So we will have a workshop on taking the fear out of funder communications with Rachel Werner on the 22nd at 1:00 PM eastern time. So you can register for that in our follow-up message today, but we're going to go ahead and open it up to questions. We've got a number to get through. So just to kick things off, Margit, the first question from Ed is related to this. I emailed a local corporate foundation about grant possibilities, but didn't receive a response after two emails. What's the best way for me to follow up or is this a sign that they're not likely to fund us? And he is part of a substance abuse treatment agency.
Margit: Okay. Yeah, I would definitely recommend a phone call next. The email even could have gotten lost or put into spam. I would definitely recommend a phone call and also check out their website. If there's somebody else that you could be contacting, maybe it's not the right person to contact. But I would absolutely go for the phone call. See if they're on social media, see if you can connect with them on LinkedIn or any other way. So I don't give up after two tries. Definitely keep going. Yeah, I commend you for doing it. Good for you.
Will: Gretchen asked, I've seen a lot of grants asking for board executive and staff demographics. This is privileged information that can only be disclosed voluntarily. Less than 23% for my organization. So are there any suggestions as to how you might answer this?
Margit: Well, for the clients I work with, it's routine now in applications, I've seen it come up more and more that people want to know the demographic of your board. They may want to just know the gender breakdown. They may want to know any kind of racial or ethnic breakdown. They may even ask if there's people in the LGBTQ community on your board. So yeah, some of that is privileged information and not everybody on your board is willing to share it. What I have found more often than not, though, is that the clients I've worked with do share that information and things like gender that you can easily determine. Other things like LGBTQ or ethnicity might be more difficult. So you do need to ask your board. And I think if you explained to them why it's being asked in a grant proposal, they might be more open to sharing it. And the reason really is, as I understand it right now, that there is so much focus on equity and also many foundations want to know that your board is reflective of the community in which you are located or the community that you serve. Which it seems like a fair argument that if you are primarily serving people in a low-income area of a city where the majority of the population is non-white, you may want to make sure that some of your board, or even the majority of it, is also nonwhite to reflect that demographic. So that's one of the reasons that applications are asking for that information.
Will: Wendy asks, for animal or wildlife causes. How do we answer the question about the population served?
Margit: Yeah. Hi Wendy. You know, I used to work for years in the environmental field, working on protecting water quality in the great lakes. So I appreciate how difficult it is. Sometimes identify a target population with something like that or with animals in a shelter. So the population served, it is certainly going to be the animals that you're serving. But I feel like you're just going to have to look back at what your outcomes are. What is the real goal of your shelter or your organization, and how do you measure that? And that's how you can start to back into your target audience.
Will: A question was asked on what do you suggest in the case of a nonprofit that can't give specific details or statistics or results when it comes to reporting outcomes?
Margit: Yeah, that's a good question. First and foremost, there's almost always a way of reporting outcomes. But if you can't do the measurements directly for whatever reason or collect data in your community directly, here's the second go-to I've used. And that is I will benchmark and look at other similar programs. So, I'll do this when I'm helping create a new program with one of my clients as well. We might be creating something new and we don't have outcome data yet because it's a new project. So what we'll do is we'll see what other communities have done something similar and what have been their outcomes. And we will simply say that these are the same outcomes we anticipate based on the project happening in this other community or in other parts. So it's a matter of really researching best practices in that particular field and seeing what kind of data you can gather. Sometimes it's a simple literature search to see what's been published and what else is out there. So a good question. Yeah. Evaluation is tough.
Will: Christine asks, how do I attract donors who would support faith-based projects? Donor requirements are definitely often very different.
Margit: Yeah, and Will, you might be better able to address this in terms of faith-based requirements. And how Instrumentl helps. Is there any specific advice you can give on that?
Will: Yeah. What I would say is use the markets link for Instrumentl. When you set up your project, you're going to be asked a question on whether or not you'd like to see faith-based opportunities. We will also show you those along with the secular opportunities. And so that is an area that we specifically help a lot in, because I think 25% of our users actually are related to faith-based organizations as well. And so that's something that the best thing to do would be to set up a search and then go from there in terms of filtering through your results. Liz asked a question of which board member or position would you choose for initial contact?
Margit: I'm assuming you're asking about which board member on the foundation that you're looking to connect with. In that case, I would really go at the highest level first, the executive director, CEO, trustee. However, if you have a connection, if somebody on your board knows somebody on the foundation's board, that would be the first strategy I would use. Always. If there's any kind of connection or introduction you can get. Sometimes you'll have a grants manager that's a good person to call. Their grants officer I would contact them also. However, many foundations are so small, they don't have a grants manager or a grants officer, and there might only be a list of three trustees that you can call. So it really depends on the foundation.
Will: Stephanie asked, many funders want to know how your organization will sustain the project or program after the grant funds end, in addition to evaluation shouldn't we also include sustainability?
Margit: Absolutely, absolutely. I'm laughing because I've taught this webinar many times and I should probably do it again this fall, but I've presented it nationally at the Grant Professionals Association for several years in a row. And when we were meeting in person, it was literally a standing room only seminar because it is such an important question. It's such a difficult question to answer. And so many grant proposals ask you how will you sustain the project when the funding ends? What other sources of funding or how will you leverage support from our grant, etc. There are a number of ways to answer this. I can tell you I do have an article on my blog site about how to answer the sustainability question. It's much bigger than we can get into here, but Will, let's plan on a webinar on that at some point in the future, that's a good one.
Will: Sarah asked, who should sign grant applications, or who should it be from? I've always put myself as the grant writer unless otherwise specified, but I've recently heard that it should always come from the executive director, president or CEO.
Margit: Yeah. Typically, the executive director or president or CEO or the president of the board. Those would be the two, either the highest staff member in your organization or your board president. Sometimes it's okay for a development director or grant professional to do it too, but I would go for one of those other two you know. Will, I was looking at the chat box at one point while you were talking and I did see a question I wanted to address. Richard asked about unsolicited proposals? And this is one that comes up a lot too, to the point where again, on my blog posts, you'll see the first one of the top two articles is all about what to do with unsolicited proposals. How to get in with foundations that say they do not accept unsolicited proposals. So check that out, please. I would still use Instrumentl to find out who is on the board of a foundation that does not accept unsolicited proposals only because there may be a chance that somebody on your board knows somebody on there's. And if not, you might still be able to connect with them, sort of with a softer approach. See if they're on social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn. It may just require that softer approach, but of course never call their home number or never do something intrusive like that. So definitely you can still pursue those. It's just a little bit more difficult.
Will: And something to help there as well. That is part of the new release that's coming up is we will be releasing a new feature called foundation discovery, which essentially will also look at your profile and the project you set up in Instrumentl and share with you funders that might be invite only or not open currently for proposals that would still be good fits. And so that's something from us to look out for on that side of things. We had a question from Mary in regards to COVID impact. They're talking about how funders have been focusing a lot on only funding essential needs. Normally they're nonprofit is closing the literacy gap among children. But last year the funding rate was significantly reduced since they were not essential during the pandemic. Do you have any suggestions in terms of what to do with those funders that last year were saying they're only funding essential needs? Would you leave those funders alone for now, or would you reach back out and push a little bit? What would your advice be there?
Margit: I would absolutely reach back out and I wouldn't even say it's pushing. I would have reached back out and let them know just how essential you are. So to use your specific example, if you are working in literacy programs with youth, right now, it is truly essential. Because as we know, so many had to be at home learning remotely, which I don't know how much they were really learning. Our son was home doing exactly that, and it was nothing like in-person school. So you might be able to do some research and find some data that shows that there has been some backsliding for youth in their reading abilities, making you actually an essential worker or making your organization essential. One thing I found in the bigger scheme to help all the other listeners today on our webinar is that what I've seen is that at the initial beginning of the pandemic, there was so much funding focused on things like purchasing protective equipment, anything to make your workspace safer, but also to help with immediate needs like food and housing.
But over time, towards the end of 2020 and into 2021, I saw a shift that broadened the description of essential or critical COVID response. And that included things like getting internet connectivity, accessing software, accessing computers, accessing reading programs, to use the same example. So that definition did broaden. I'm going to take a leap and even say we've got folks here from animal shelters. Look, having an animal can reduce depression, can improve mental health outcomes. That's pretty essential too when people are isolated right now. So I would think creatively in how your work truly is essential, given all the big realm of challenges that we've been facing for 18 months and are still going to be facing in the coming months.
Will: It's crazy to think it's already been 18 months with that. We're going to go ahead and wrap things up. As a reminder, everybody, we will be sending replays with slides as well as the links in the presentation that will have that free guide that Margit referenced on her blog, along with the raffle details and things like that at the conclusion of today's presentation in the next hour or so. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that. If you want to learn more about how to take the fear out of funder communications, join us on the 22nd where Rachel Werner will be returning as well to give us a presentation on that. And then be sure to check out Margit's course, as well as Margit's link for Instrumentl to set up your free search. You'll get personalized grant results and they will be specific to your nonprofit. But other than that, thanks so much for attending guys and we'll be in touch soon.
Margit: Thanks everybody. Bye bye.